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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Free Text to Speech on macOS Helps Reading and Writing.

Apple has offered free accessibility tools with their personal computing devices for some time, but with each new operating system upgrade comes improvements and changes.  A few weeks ago, I did a blog and video on their Dictation accessibility tool, and this week I hope to educate you about the many benefits of their Speech accessibility tool.  So, if you read better when you can hear written text and could benefit from editing your papers by listening to your compositions, you are in the right place.

What is Speech?

Speech is a text to speech technology on macOS that allows users to quickly transform written text into audible words. Simply highlight a word, sentence, paragraph or a whole article in a document, email or online website, and once you select the designated command keys, your Mac will read the selection aloud. To top it off, you can choose from more than 70 male or female voices across 42 languages.

How Can This Free Speech Accessibly Feature Be Enabled?

  1. Be sure to upgrade your Mac to the new macOS Sierra.
  2. Choose Apple menu
    

  1. Select System Preferences



        


     4.  Click Accessibility
                                                        
5.  Click Speech
6.  Click the box “Speak selected text...” and select the white button that says “Change Key…”


7.  Select the keys you would like to use to enable this function.  I chose Option+S and then select OK.

 
8. Now you will want to select a voice.  To do this click on the dropdown menu next to “System Voice” and select your preference.  If you select the last option - “Customize…” you will be given additional voice options that can be downloaded for free.  My personal favorites are Alex and Tom.  You can listen to the voice by selecting the play button.  You can also adjust the speech rate by adjusting the white slider between Slow - Normal - Fast.  

A Few Key Pointers when Using Speech?

  1. By default, your Mac will speak highlighted text when you press Option-Esc.
  2. To stop your Mac from speaking, press the designated keys again.
  3. If no text is selected when you press the designated keys, available text items in the current window are spoken. For example, if Mail is open, an email message is read.

Why is Speech a Great Option for Individuals with Dyslexia?

Speech is a great option for individuals with dyslexia for two main reasons. First, many dyslexic learners find the process of decoding words to be arduous and tiresome. Speech allows them to listen to the words read aloud, so they can focus on comprehension. Second, Speech can be used to edit essays and self-generated documents. This can be a quick way to uncover misspellings, awkward wording, word omissions and more. Personally, I use it all the time to edit my work. For example, if I typed the word “from” when I meant to type the word “form,” in a sentence, I probably wouldn’t “see” the mishap. However, if I had the computer read it back to me, I would quickly hear the mistake.

Would like see my YouTube video on the free macOS Dictation tool?

I hope you found this blog helpful.  Please leave a comment and share it on social media.

Also, if you would like to learn more about my other videos on assistive technology and multisensory teaching, come on over and subscribe to my YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/warrenerica1


Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY. To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz
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